Revising the Sphere standards: What’s next

11 July 2017 | Sphere Project

The current revision of the Sphere Handbook is probably the most participatory ever of these periodic exercises. After 10 weeks of open public consultation on the first draft, the writing team begins work on a second draft which will be ready in October.

More than 600 humanitarian practitioners from over 80 countries have already contributed to the revision process through the online consultations and surveys which have just finished. The draft was downloaded by people in over 100 countries with more than 2500 individual comments shared with the revision team.

In addition to this input, there have been 75 live consultation events in 41 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. Reports and recommendations from those consultations are also feeding into current preparations for the second draft.

"This is probably going to be the most participatory Sphere Handbook revision ever," says Sphere Executive Director Christine Knudsen. "We are very pleased by the far-reaching interest that this first draft and consultation process has aroused," she adds.

"The input from hundreds of practitioners around the world will help us ensure that the revised Handbook reflects global practice and experience from very different operational contexts."

The first draft of the next version of the Sphere standards was accessible in English, but feedback in Arabic, French and Spanish was also invited. Published on 21 April, the draft was available for downloading and feedback for 10 full weeks.

Based on the input gathered online and through in-person consultations, the lead authors and writing teams will now work on a second draft of the revised Handbook. The second draft will be available for online review and validation in October.

"We'll come back to the humanitarian community around the world again in the fall to share the revised text based on their feedback," Knudsen says.

"We look to practitioners to help us validate the Handbook before we publish it next year. This step is essential, to make sure we provide the best compilation of global practice and minimum standards for humanitarian assistance."

This first draft began to move the standards from a text-heavy format to a clearer table style which draws out indicators, thresholds and targets and encourages the reader to think more about context.

Common terminology began to build greater consistency across chapters. Drivers of future humanitarian response such as cash transfer programming, urban response or environmental concerns were grouped and woven throughout the chapters. A stronger introduction and guidance to using the standards in context was also included.

The first draft of the revised Handbook remains online for consultation only.

The next edition of the Sphere Handbook will be published in the second quarter of 2018.

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